Ace Your Pickleball Vocabulary: Fun Pickleball Terms and Phrases

Pickleball has a unique culture. Most players are far more focused on fun with friends than destroying the opposition. In addition to its culture, pickleball has specific equipment, apparel, and courts. And then there’s the vocabulary: pickleball has its own language.

While the fun of the game is what draws so many people to the sport, pickleball slang is almost as fun as the game itself. Some terms can confuse a new pickler as it’s often not obvious what some of pickleball’s slang means. Here’s our guide to some of the most fun pickleball terms and phrases to help you feel in the know when you hit the pickleball court.

Grooming-Based Slang

There’s a group of pickleball vocabulary words that sound like they refer to your opponents’ grooming habits but have nothing to do with hygiene.

If your partner celebrates a pedicure, that doesn’t mean they recently got their toes nails painted. A pedicure means hitting your opponent’s foot. If you hit their hand instead of their pickleball shoes, that’s a manicure. And if someone on the court mentions a full wax? Well, that means a hit that lands just below the belt.

You could call any of these hits a body bag, which is a shot targeting your opponent’s body.

Food-Based Slang

Unsurprisingly, a sport with the word “pickle” in its name has some food-based slang.

The non-volley zone is commonly called the kitchen.

In a doubles game, sometimes the serving team hits the third shot as a drive while the non-hitting player rushes the net. Their goal is to smash a winning shot on the next return. If you see this, you’ve witnessed a shake-n-bake.

A nutmeg, also called a 5-hole, refers to hitting a shot through your opponent’s legs.

To be lettuced is to have your serve hit the top of the net, land on the other side in the appropriate service box, and have the returner unable to get their paddle on the ball. The name comes from “let,” which is when a serve hits the net, and “ace,” which is a serve that the receiving player can’t reach. Let + Ace = lettuce.

Mentioning a falafel may make you feel like it’s time to break for lunch. But a pickleball falafel isn’t fried food. It’s a shot that falls short due to a lack of power.

There’s no nutritional value in a flapjack on the pickleball court. That’s the term for a ball that must bounce before being legally hit. It applies to the service return and the return of the service return. After that, volleying is allowed, as long as a player isn’t hitting from inside the kitchen.

Finally, if someone says you’ve been pickled, you don’t have much to celebrate. That means you’ve lost a game without scoring a single point. In a pickleball shut-out game, someone has been pickled.


If someone you play with has a peculiar habit or signature move, you may invent your own name-based slang in response to your friend’s quirky habits. But there are a few terms that are universal to pickleball.

You perform an Erne by running or jumping over the corner of the kitchen into a spot just outside the lines of the court. From there, you hit a legal volley shot back over the net.

Like on Sesame Street, where you have an Erne, you also need a Bert. That’s a shot similar to an Erne but performed on your partner’s side of the court. You cross in front of your partner onto their side. Then, you hit a volley back over the net from outside the court and next to the kitchen.

While Bert and Erne/Ernie were friendly muppets, they have a mean friend in pickleball. His name is Nasty Nelson. When a server intentionally hits the non-receiving opponent with the ball, that earns them a point and gives them the distinction of having performed a Nasty Nelson.

Some other Fun Terms

Here are a few other fun pickleball terms you might come across.

A tweener is a ball returned through your legs. Most commonly, this happens when you don’t have time to move back far enough to hit a regular shot. Your only choice is to let the ball travel behind you. You then hit it by reaching back and swatting it through your legs. Since you hit it between your legs, it is a tweener.

You see your chance for a great shot and move in. In attempting to slam a high shot down onto the opponent’s side of the court, you get a little overzealous, and the ball lands in the net instead. That’s a fly swatter. Like a poor fly at the end of a swatter, your ball gets smooshed into the net.

An ATP is a shot hit around the side of the net instead of over it. ATP stands for around-the-post.

While the Dalai Lama is much respected, you don’t want to be a volley llama. If a player commits a fault by hitting a volley when a legal return requires the ball to bounce first, they are a volley llama.

Talking the Talk

You will pick up the lingo as you play more pickleball, but this should give you a good start. You may even find that you and your friends develop your own pickleball vocabulary. That’s part of the fun. All of the terms on our list started when someone made them up, and they caught on. Perhaps your group of pickleball friends will invent the haircut, the carrot, or the Jennifer.


Pickleball, a sport celebrated for its unique culture, places a premium on the joy of camaraderie rather than a cutthroat approach to competition. Beyond its distinctive culture, pickleball boasts its own set of equipment, apparel, and specialized courts, complemented by a vocabulary that forms a language of its own. As players delve into the vibrant world of pickleball, mastering the intricacies of its slang becomes an integral part of the experience.

4 Pickleball Slangs


Ace Your Pickleball Vocabulary: Fun Pickleball Terms and Phrases

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